Authors: Lan LLP
Book 1 of the Forever Series
Copyright © 2014 by
The right of Lan LLP to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the copyright, designs and patent act 1988.
All rights reserved. This book may not
be reproduced, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and events portrayed in this book are all products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, organizations and locales are entirely coincidental.
Cover Artist Kellie Dennis at Book Cover by Design
Formatted by Linh M. Le
For more information about Lan LLP and future releases, you may follow her here.
(One of my favorite parts of the book)
’ve spent over an entire year and a half writing a romance novel about Carson Bradley, a tall, dark, handsome man, who always knows the perfect words to express and the right things to do to keep his lover, Lillian Ly, completely head-over-heels for him. My non-fiction life isn’t too far off from my fiction story. Who’s my hero? My husband is. Without his love and support, this book would probably not exist. The amount of time he’s given up so that I may do this is beyond generous, and all this he’s done with a ceaseless smile on his captivating face and an encouraging shoulder to lean on.
To my husband
, I say, “Thank you for loving me in your special-C.C. way, always putting a smile on my face and making me laugh even when I’m at my lowest point. Our paths crossed thousands of miles away from home just like my book characters and now, we begin our happy ending with forever.”
To the other loves in my life
, Sidney and Sienna
, who gave me never-ending hugs, kisses and laughter to get me through all those countless, sleepless nights. You both have provided me with words of encouragement that are wise beyond your tender years. God gave me two amazing miracles, and you two are it. To you both, I say, “Thank you for believing in me and for donating some of your mommy-time to make my dream come true. I love you both beyond words that any writers can express.”
To my mom, Lien, and baby sister, Linh
, I say, “I love you both through all our struggles, tears and heartaches. It has always been just the three of us from the beginning to the end. Though we might not always be able to verbally express our emotions to each other, it’s obviously all there in our hearts. No words are needed to know what you both mean to me.”
To all my friends
, I say, “Thank you for all your support and love. You know who you are and how much each of you means to me. I can’t imagine going through life without all the laughter and tears we’ve shared.”
To my cancer patients
, I say, “Thank you for showing me every day that life is a gift from God. Embrace it, love it and live it to the best that I can. Your strength is encouraging; your humor is what makes a tough job easier, and your bravery gives everyone hope.” If only Carson Bradley really existed, we could get rid of cancer forever.
Special thanks to:
Linh Le for formatting/computer expertise, William McCoskey and Frances Torres for helping me edit my book, and my beta readers and reviewers for giving me honest and gentle criticism to help me shape my book into something I can now say I’m very proud of.
(Fifteen years prior to the Present)
(One year and six months prior to the Present)
(Six months prior to the Present)
(Six months prior to the Present)
(Six months prior to the Present)
n agony, she cried out softly, “Carson, it hurts.” Shifting her frail, gaunt body from left to right, she hoped to ease some of her unbearable pain, but it was useless—it was everywhere. Only weak whispers of her torment escaped her lips. I knew this pain all too well because I’ve watched her suffer for the past year and couldn’t do a damn thing about it, but sob in silence. I was more pissed at God on her really bad days, and today was one of those days. Why did it have to be my Emily? Why did she have to go through this? I questioned and blamed Him until I was blue in the face and still never found my answers. I told Him that I would trade places with Emily in a heartbeat if He’d let me, but He never took me up on my offer.
Using a washcloth,
I dabbed continuous beads of sweat off her forehead and face. “Em, ride the pain and then it’ll pass again. Squeeze my hand. I’m here for you.” I did my best to be strong for her as I held back my own aching tears. I encouraged her to bite the bullet for a few more minutes as another wave of unfathomable pain surged through her brittle bones. Her eyes sealed tight, closing the hurt out, but it wouldn’t go away. When she opened them, the familiar beautiful sparkle that often tugged at my heart was no longer there. I couldn’t take it anymore, watching her cry in anguish. “Em, end your pain…let me go,” I wept, shaking and desperate with my face buried in my hands. She’s never seen this weak, broken side of me. I’ve hidden it from her for years. She didn’t need to worry about my shattered emotions on top of everything else. I had to pull myself together, be strong for her. I reached for her hands and held onto them.
gazed directly into my sobbing eyes, dripped new tears and mouthed, “I love you always, Carson.”
I kissed her lips gently, wiped the streaming tears from her face and told her
with my trembling voice, “I’ll love you always, Emily. Go. We’ll see each other again.” As soon as the last, coerced word crossed my quivering lips, I felt an intense ache in my chest. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t want to let her go. Tears came fiercely and painfully, but I didn’t try to hold them back; I just couldn’t. I held onto her hands for another hour before she took her last breath and left me broken-hearted at seventeen. I’ve never wept that hard in all my life. My heart felt like it was dying, drifting away with her. Why did I tell her to go? Why? I blamed myself. I gave up on her, so she did, too.
Why isn’t there a drink stiff enough that can diminish the torment of a fucked up decision? I’m hours away from marrying a woman I’ve never loved, and it’s entirely my fault. What was I thinking? I wasn’t—that’s the problem. Sliding my empty glass towards the bartender, I signal for another one. “This time, make it neat instead of up,” I request. The ice will only dilute my buzz, defeating its dulling purpose. He nods his head and pours a generous amount of clear vodka into a pristine glass for me.
So you like it neat?” An attractive brunette woman, sitting three barstools to the right of me, daringly flirts with her raspy voice. She's seductively dressed and obviously on the prowl for a man to take home for the night. I noticed her sending suggestive signals my way earlier, but I purposely ignored them. In my state of mind, nothing appeals to me, but this drink in my hand. I slam the vodka down my throat and relish the burn one last time. God, that’s exactly what I needed.
my empty glass in front of me, turn to face her and tastefully respond to her loaded, come-on line with one of my own.
“I do, and how do you like yours, Miss?” Her face lights up with a flirty grin. Finally, I offer her the attention she's been begging for, even though I really don't have the time or patience for this kind of nonsense.
I like it up and dirty,” she replies with a suggestive arch of her right brow.
I don't pick
up women at bars because I don’t have to. I have more willing women throwing themselves at me than I can handle. But tonight is her lucky night. I'm emotionally fucked, and my nerves are raw. She'll be a good distraction from my anxiety. I know it makes me an asshole for using her this way, but I’ll deal with the guilt along with the regrets afterwards.
First, I'll have to d
elay my flight to St. Maarten. I pull my phone out of my pants pocket to call my assistant. “Owen, I need more time. Have Captain Franco delay our flight for this evening.” I alter our plans at the last minute as I scribble on a paper napkin. I’m so angry with myself right now. Why did I let it go this far? I should never have fallen for my mother’s power of persuasion. My soft spot for her made me weak. I’m thankful Owen isn’t able to witness my volatility. I take pride in concealing my personal emotions from the world. Sometimes I do it so well, I fool myself.
“Mr. Bradley, the forecast for this evening isn't favorable,” he replies. “We should leave as soon as possible to avoid the predicted storm. It’s bad luck for the groom to be late to his own wedding.”
main priority is to ensure all aspects of my business and personal life run perfectly smooth, and he’s damn proficient at it. But for once in my life, I don’t give a shit about punctuality or staying on schedule. In fact, I wouldn't mind not showing up at all. Ignoring his warning, I firmly ask him to carry out my request. “I have one of the top pilots in the nation. I’m not apprehensive about a tropical storm. Call Ms. Sorte and tell her not to expect me until sometime tomorrow. I won’t leave the premises until I'm absolutely convinced my executives are confident covering my position for the next five days.” I fabricate an unlikely ploy to convince him that it’s work I’m uncertain about, not my wedding. He knows it’s implausible, but doesn’t question my judgment.
“Ms. Sorte will be informed,
sir. The flight will be delayed and pickup will now be 9:00 p.m. instead. See you then, Mr. Bradley,” Owen replies in his monotonous voice.
I tap the phone screen to end the call and write ‘Ritz Carlton’ on the same napkin that I’ve been scribbling on for the past few minutes. I settle my bill and the brunette’s with the bartender, tuck the napkin underneath her perspiring drink and walk away without ever finding her eyes.
I check into the Ritz Carlton under an alias I use randomly every now and then. I have a stringent rule of never bringing women I date or have casual sex with to my place. Giving them false hope of wanting more than just empty sex with me isn’t my game. I don’t like toying with anyone’s emotions, so I’m quite frank or blunt with the women I date. ‘No commitment’ is the very first thing that rolls smoothly off of my tongue. It’ll never happen. If they’re okay with that, then we press forward with lots of hot sex, occasional dinners and lavish gifts for their time spent with me. This kind of arrangement has suited me well for years. They get what they want, and I get what I want—without the strings attached. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
fter I head for the presidential suite, the concierge is left with instructions to discreetly escort my brunette guest from the bar to my room and leave her in my company. She finds me lounging on a leather sofa in a dark gray Gucci suit. Resting my head between my thumb and index finger, I vacantly watch her hot, curvaceous body catwalk towards me, one foot gracefully in front of the other. Her clothing peels away, piece by piece, as the distance between us is lessened. There’s a sexy trail of black silk and lace behind her. She stops short, only to confidently flaunt her bared assets and to gauge my reaction with her sable-brown eyes. I offer her nothing, except for my deadpan expression, but it doesn’t deter her. She continues to drizzle her sensuality more generously like hot melted chocolate. Something tells me this isn't her first time. She takes one last step and leans into my face with her full, pendulous breasts while resting her hands on my inner thighs. So why the hell am I not hard yet? The wedding crap in my head is seriously affecting my libido.